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Executives Attend ASTA’s Premium Summit

February 15, 2011 By: George Dooley

ASTA reported its fifth annual Premium Business Summit drew leaders from travel’s top agencies across all sectors of the market, meeting to exchange best practices and develop strategic solutions for dealing with some of the most critical issues facing them.

ASTA’s Premium Members met in Las Vegas, Feb. 9-10, 2011, to network and share ideas. This year’s invitation-only event sold out and saw record attendance with nearly 100 Premium Members participating.

"This year’s Premium Summit, was exceptional in terms of the content delivered and the opportunities for those in attendance to interact and share insight into some of the most pressing issues facing the travel industry," said ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar. "Meetings such as these allow for today’s top industry executives to become more than just spectators in the events shaping our industry; they are active participants."

ASTA Premium member Brad Tolkin, co-chairman/CEO of World Travel Holdings in Wilmington, Mass., said of the meeting, “[It was a] great combination of one-of-a -kind networking with high doses of conversation on the sensitive, industry-changing issues confronting travel distribution today. ASTA is surgically focused on both protecting and validating the travel agent as the industry grapples with these issues.”

The event provided attendees with networking opportunities and the chance to participate in high level discussions, ASTA said. Attendees heard executives from some of the industry’s leading supplier organizations discuss such topics as the future of agency GDS contracting: and what it means for an agency’s bottom line, as well as new developments in corporate account contracts.

Julius Robinson, vice president of Global Sales Intermediaries and chairman of the Innovention Network for Marriott, provided the Premium members in attendance with an overview of the hotel industry as well as Marriott’s global Love Travel Agents campaign. The campaign is geared to helping build awareness among consumers and the industry of the key role travel agents play. He is responsible for improving the awareness and value proposition of Marriott's largest group of convention and resort hotels globally.

Carolyn Cauceglia, vice president of strategic sales for Amadeus North America, spoke to how agents can redefine their roles and respond to changing traveler demands to improve the total travel experience. Among the areas she covered were expanded ancillary options, untapped potential in the current travel model, and how shifting traveler demographics offer significant opportunities for agents to realign and evolve their business.

Kay Ceille, senior vice president of global travel and partnership sales for Avis-Budget, provided Premium Members with forward-looking insight into the car rental sector, including innovations agents can expect to see in 2011. Additionally, she unveiled fleet changes and provided insight on what agents can expect with industry pricing in the coming year.

Enterprise Holdings' vice president of travel industry relations Ron Cerko provided an inside look into the company’s innovative approach to customer service and how agents can take that knowledge and apply it to their own companies. Additionally, he reviewed the industry’s overall satisfaction ratings.

Chris Kroeger, senior vice president of Sabre/GetThere, discussed current industry issues and highlighted how Sabre innovations are addressing those issues. In his presentation, Kroeger touched upon the current direct connect debate and offered insights into tools that can help agencies grow revenues and optimize costs in an increasingly complex operating environment.

Premium Members also heard from their peers on best business practices, as well as a panel discussion on two of the issues that have been making news headlines — Direct Connect and ancillary fees — with an eye to how various scenarios will affect their agency operations, their businesses and their clients.

Sponsors of the event were: Marriott International, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Amadeus, AVIS/Budget, Enterprise Holdings, Sabre/Get There, Travel Insured International, Travelport and ABC Global Services.



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By George Dooley | February 15, 2011
A range of guest speakers took the podium at ASTA's fifth annual premium meeting.
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